Science Fiction & Fantasy

Null States

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Sean Williams

“Zero Temptation” is set in your Twinmaker universe, so how important was it to tie the Twinmaker lore in with a story that may be read by people who have never read any of the other Twinmaker stories? How difficult was it to strike that balance between new readers and readers who are looking for more stories set within Twinmaker?

Luckily both the Twinmaker stories and the Twinmaker novels (and, to a lesser extent, the urban myth series— http://twinmakerbooks.com/tag/urban-myths/—as well) rely on a trope that’s pretty familiar to everyone, that of the matter transmitter, so I can usually assume that a large percentage of what these stories are about will connect with readers. Some of the other elements—VIA, the Air, WHOLE, etc.—are trickier. I try to convey the meaning of these terms by their function in the sentence or in the context rather than stopping to explain. A first-person narrative like this one just doesn’t allow space for infodumps. It’s my hope that readers will get what’s important and not be troubled by anything else they miss. And perhaps the exact opposite of being troubled, they will be intrigued enough to try the book in order to learn more.

There’s a theme of social media and “logging” your activity throughout the story. Do you see the “Live it. Love it. Log it.” slogan becoming real in a few years, or do you think we’re already at that point?

I think the technology is at the point where people can readily log everything they do, if they want to, but it’s not really mainstream yet. There’s no killer app, if I still can use that term without sounding facile. I like the idea of memory aids—and, going even deeper back in time, full-blown nostalgia engines—but I’m not going to do it myself if it takes any effort at all. I stopped exercise logging after a week because it annoyed me, and that’s barely any inconvenience at all. Until we’re living in a full-on surveillance state where everything is monitored for me, and I have full access to that data, I doubt it’s going to entirely work for me.

Others, though . . . ? Sure. Some people do log everything. Some even make the data public (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129514.500-stroll-down-a-virtual-memory-lane-to-revisit-your-past.html). Information is neither inherently valuable nor valueless; it’s all about how it’s used. Even if this data only finds an application in the thesis of some future anthropology post-grad, that’s fine. She’ll be glad it exists. And if we do all of us end up logging everything we do and experience, even better for her.

No one seems to have any privacy, as Tash’s own thoughts about Darryl are logged and viewed by others constantly. Do you see technology ever getting to that point and people agreeing to let themselves be observed every moment of every day?

My Twinmaker characters do live in a transparent, post-privacy world, where anyone can pretty much see anyone, from top to bottom. It’s regulated in a way very different to our world, obviously, but I can see this world turning into that one by increments. Facebook may not be the game-changer some people say it is, but I do think it’s symptomatic of a fundamental shift in how today’s young people choose to engage with these notions. The sticking point is the lack of transparency at the governmental end—i.e., they can see us but we can’t see them. Breaking down that barrier will be much harder. In Twinmaker’s past, there’s been a massive crisis that changed by necessity many of our familiar social mores, including the very idea of what a government is. As a result, the world of Twinmaker is quite different to ours in lots of ways, ways we haven’t seen yet, and may not see at all. I’m not making predictions, just exploring the possible.

What do you have coming up in the future?

Crashland, the second Twinmaker book, is out in November. Readers will learn a great deal more about the world in that novel, and meet a whole bunch of new characters. This year also sees my fourth and fifth collaborations with Garth Nix in print: Troubletwisters 4: The Missing and Spirit Animals 3: Blood Ties, the last an installment in the massive, multi-format, multi-author middle grade series from Scholastic, currently taking the world by storm.

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Bradley Englert

BradleyEnglertBradley Englert is currently an undergrad at Western Kentucky University where he studies English, creative writing, and film. He enjoys writing fiction and directing short films. One day he hopes to have something written in italics in this section.